#792 Grab-bag World (Began life as a short story, written a long time ago.)

Three buddies in a locker room.
We’re regulars at the gym.
We’ve known each other for years.
We know where the others work,
whether married,
how many times,
what the first one did that was
so terrible,
the weather on the last vacation…

I’m drying off.
Jim’s dressing.
Larry’s stripping off his sweats.
It’s the usual drill.
Jim’s talking.
Larry’s filling in with
straight-man lines.
I’m the audience.

“…and I got hedges to trim,
lawn to cut…
Lots to do this weekend…”

“Yeah,” says Larry.
“Me too. Lots.”

“Yeah. Always somethin’.”

Comes an audience participation moment.
I want to point out that,
since it’s cooler today
than it was last week,
Autumn having exploded into rainbow being
during a wild midnight thunderstorm,
mowing the lawn this weekend
will not be so bad…

But what I say is,
“You got good weather for it.”

“No good time to mow a lawn!” Jim responds.

“Yeah… No good time.”

“Always a pain in the ass.:

“Yeah. Painus-anus!”

(I wonder if these guys did
Vaudeville
in a past life.)

Jim’s ready to leave.
He hefts his gym bag
to his shoulder,
turns to Larry.
“Take care of the little women,” he says.

He turns to leave.
A few steps.
Then, looking over his shoulder…
(timing is everything..)
he adds,
“…and your wife, too!”

Larry cracks up!
He really likes that one!
“Oh! Christ!” he says.
“…and my wife! Jesus! That’s a great one!”

Jim walks out the door, chuckling.
Larry’s still laughing.
He’s never heard that one before.

Now,
I’m ready to leave.
Larry’s ready for his shower.

I head for the door, bag in hand.
A few steps.
I turn.
Wait for it…
I say, “…and take care of Carol, too!”

Larry stares at me.

It’s a joke.
I reach in and pull out a name:

Carol.

I could’ve grabbed
Mary or Sue.
But I say,

“Carol”.

But in his stare is
a life exposed,
not even a towel to hide
a flabby resolve
gone flaccid with the years.

Larry sits on a bench.

“Oh. Shit.” he says.
“Carol.
You know her.”

Then the look changes.
It’s relief.
The man was afraid of getting caught.
Now he doesn’t have to worry.
He has a way out.

“What’d she tell you?”

“I was just…”

Joking.

I was going to say.

A joke.

Like ” …painus-anus”
Like “…your wife, too”.

But,

if I say anything,

now,

anything true,
it means Larry has
exposed himself
accidentally,
unnecessarily,
to me.
And that’s worse,
so much worse,
than someone else
jerking off
his towel.

Even Carol.

Will Larry believe her
when she can’t answer his question
about some guy he knows in the gym.
Who knows.
About them?

“I don’t know anyone at the gym!”
Carol will say.

“Then how does he know about us?”
Larry will demand.

“I don’t know, Larry!
I just don’t know!”
Carol will plead.

But Larry turns,
bare assed,
walks to the showers.
He doesn’t care to hear my answer
to his question.

I leave,
knowing.
He’ll never ask Carol
anything.

There are ground rules for this
sordid sort of thing,
an affair,
sexual,
secret.
And they don’t allow for sharing
personal intimacies.
Intimacies like

“Who are you close enough to
that you could,
in a moment of weakness
or guilt

confess your sins?”

Next time I see Larry in the locker room,
I’ll take him aside.
I’ll put my arm over his shoulder.
I’ll explain.
I’ll say,

“It’s a grab-bag world, Buddy.
I pulled out the booby prize.
Don’t worry, Larry.
You can trust me.

I’ve seen you naked.

Once is enough.”

About Ken Greenman

Married and Happy. Retired and busy. Living in NC. 71 and counting. December 12, 2020 and it's 72! ... I would love some written comments, critiques, adulation or kind suggestions.... If you have the time and or inclination, please feel free! Not in fear but by faith. We will see. See you later! If you ever want to talk for real, email me and I will send you my cell number.... I am enjoying this!
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